THE PATH TO PORTAGE

One of my goals for my Alaska trip was getting to Portage Glacier. Portage is the closest and most accessible glacier to Anchorage and therefore the most visited in the state. A visitor’s center tells about the area and everyone said it was worth a stop.  Daily two hour boat rides take tourists right out to the glacier.  Sounded fun.

Portage is fifty miles south of Anchorage, down the Seward Highway, along the Turnagain Arm and is said to be one of the prettiest drives in the States. It is.

I set off on Tuesday morning. G. told me that Girdwood, a town about halfway there, was a good place to stop. A gas station and small strip mall had a bakery with good treats.

The sky was a little cloudy, but life was mostly sunny as I headed out of Anchorage. However, I hadn’t gone too far before all sun was blocked by clouds. By the time I reached Girdwood, the rain was coming down like a no-holds-barred super soaker fight. I stopped at the bakery and bought myself some absolutely hit-the-spot hot cider.  Other shops included “The Great Alaskan Tourist Trap.”

I slowly sipped my cider. Checked my phone and had a voice mail from Melinda about Sparks which was kind of funny and out of context of where I was and what I was doing, but it was good to hear a familiar voice. I watched the people dash in and out of the bakery clutching their coffee and waiting under the overhang for the rain to let up.  To add to the uniqueness of the situation – ghost trees lined the road across from the strip mall – trees that were damaged in the 1964 earthquake, (the land sunk ten feet and the trees died). Further down, the remains of a house was tucked between the trees. I had no place to stop and take a picture though.

I chatted with a clerk. “If the weather is bad here, you can expect it to be even worse in Portage.  Temperature is always about 20 to 30 degrees colder.”

But bravely, I drove on. When I reached the area and turned left toward the visitor’s center the wind shifted and the pickup truck rocked back and forth in the current and the rain came straight toward me. I thought about turning around, but I had gotten that far and figured it would be awhile before I got back again. I was rather positive I wouldn’t be taking any scenic cruises, however.

When I reached the visitor’s center, I thought it was closed – everything looked so empty.  But the rangers were there … and a few other people, too. I watched a movie and then walked around but the view was limited. The guy at the desk (from Lombard) said that even the animals would be hunkered down in that weather.

One fascinating thing I did see – the movie talked about the ice worms. From the movie, I had difficulty determining their size, but the Lombardian ranger had some at the desk – they are so tiny – both in width and length, not even as round as a piece of yarn – more like a half inch piece of fishing twine.

I headed back and stopped for gas and some more cider and the closer I got to Anchorage, the more the sun struggled to move past the clouds.

But I am so glad I went. The drive is magnificent – I don’t have the words to describe the mountains and the changing color of the leaves.  Every turn in the road just brought on another photo op.

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